Podesta Expected to Push Environmentalist Agenda in WH
John Podesta, former advisor to President Clinton and now an advisor to Barack Obama, is being hailed as a savior by environmental groups hoping to push their agenda through with help from the White House. The supposed drop in unemployment offers the White House an opportunity to focus on their goal, environmentalists believe.
Elgie Holstein, strategic director for the Environmental Defense Fund, who served with Podesta under Clinton, said, “The most significant thing about this partnership is that Podesta will help advocate the idea that you can have economic recovery and growth without sacrificing the environment.” Noting that the administration's Council of Environmental Quality’s chairwoman and deputy director are leaving soon and will need replacements, Holstein was pleased Podesta will be involved in the vetting process, saying, “It couldn't be better timing with the personnel transition.”
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough sought to have Podesta on the White House team so he could help implement the president's Climate Action Plan. White House press secretary Jay Carney stated, “He will advise on a range of issues with a particular focus on issues of energy and climate change,” adding that Podesta will help execute “executive actions where necessary when we can't get cooperation out of Congress.”
Some expected targets for Podesta are Environmental Protection Agency rules for current power plants, helping to construct a plan for dealing with methane gas, and creating new standards for fuel economy in heavy-duty vehicles, as well as dealing with leases on federal lands and permits for development and mining projects.
Podesta was one of the originators of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule under Clinton, in which logging and road construction were limited to protect national forests. Podesta is hugely aggressive; he told the Washington Post earlier this year that a president’s “path to success… is going to come through every single place that you can squeeze some authority which he has. That is where you’ve got to focus your attention and where you could spend your political capital."
But as reputedly tough as Podesta is, he’s pragmatic enough not to fight any battles he might lose. He stated he won’t get involved in the fight over Keystone XL, the proposed TransCanada pipeline, which he has already on record opposing. The White House took him off the hook; White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “This is a policy process that’s been in place for several years now, and having him enter that process at the very end or near the very end doesn’t seem to be the best way to carry out that process and to move it across the finish line.”
But environmental activists are pushing for his involvement, creating a petition that calls on the White House to “free John Podesta” on the issue.